Putnam Park Road Course owner Chris Diasio hasn’t slowed down since becoming majority owner of the race track in 2012.
Nestled on 200 acres about 35 miles west of Indianapolis, the track—built in 1991—was mostly used for testing by professional race teams for more than two decades.
Diasio changed all that.
Shortly after taking over, Diasio launched The Club at Putnam Park—kind of a golf-type club, but for hobby racers and exotic car and motorcycle owners.
This offseason, he repaved the 1.8-mile racing circuit and pit area with what Diasio calls “a specialty mix of asphalt that provides an ultra-smooth surface with a good bit of grip.”
He also added a 12-bay garage and renovated the track’s three-story tower, which includes scoring and timing as well as office, meeting and classroom space.
Those improvements cost about $2 million, Diasio told IBJ.
“The facility went from having zero garage bays in 2011 to 62 garage bays at the end of 2016 with no vacancies,” he said. “We currently have 86 members of our country club and offer instruction for those who’ve never been on any sort of a track or road course. We truly serve all levels of race enthusiasts.”
In 2012, he built a 30-bay garage and in 2013 built a 3,600-square-foot posh clubhouse complete with locker rooms, kitchen areas and recreation and lounge areas. In 2014, Diasio added a 20-bay garage.
He has invested nearly $5 million in the facility since 2012—and isn’t done yet.
Demand for the new garages was so high, he’s breaking ground on another 12-bay garage within 30 days. Ten of those bays are already sold, he said.
The next phases of the improvements include repaving of the access road at the facility this spring; construction of another 20-bay garage building later this summer; and within three years, construction of trackside garages with spectator areas above, as well as large garages with living space above.
Tim Frost, a Chicago-based motorsports business consultant and publisher of National Speedway Directory, said the demand for tracks such as Putnam Park “is tremendous.”
“There are a lot of people who want to take their car out and race it, and they want a safe, legal place to do it,” Frost said. “The participant-based facilities in our sport are the ones that are really thriving. Putnam Park is a beautiful facility—and very busy.”
Although the pastime is expensive, Frost said “there’s apparently no shortage of people who love cars and racing and have the money to do it.”
The demand is somewhat surprising to Diasio.
In early 2014, he offered a new pricey membership option—board membership—and sold seven of those within two weeks of introduction. That membership costs $150,000. But unlike other Putnam Park memberships, the board positions have no annual dues and include a 2-bay garage.
“And that’s with payment up front,” Diasio said. “It’s done incredible.”
While no membership is cheap, there are less expensive options.
Individuals pay a three-year membership fee of $7,500 plus $5,000 in annual dues. A lifetime membership is available for a $30,000 membership fee plus $5,000 in annual dues. Corporate memberships are available at two price points: $40,000 for five years with $20,000 annual dues; and $70,000 for a lifetime membership with $20,000 in annual dues, which also buys the corporate member one private track day per year.
“This whole thing has been a snowball effect,” Diasio said. “I really can’t tell you exactly where all the members have come from. We have doctors and lawyers and many other professions. We introduce something new, and people get excited about it and tell their friends, family and associates, and it just grows from there.”
Diasio said Putnam Park’s biggest drawing cards are its exclusive feel and flexible schedule.
“A lot of our members have never even raced their cars before,” Diasio said. “They have an exotic [car or motorcycle] and they don’t want to race it on a track with a bunch of people or in a big group with a car club. We offer a real unique private, family atmosphere and they really like that.”
To read how Diasio first hit the accelerator at Putnam Park, click here.